Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen 1660-81, 1689; in the corporation 1685
Number of voters:
over 600 in 1669; 21 in 1685
|4 Apr. 1660||JOHN EGIOKE|
|SIR THOMAS ROUS, Bt.|
|11 Apr. 1661||WILLIAM SANDYS|
|29 Oct. 1669||SIR JOHN HANMER vice Cullen, deceased|
|Sir James Rushout, Bt.|
|Election declared void, 22 Nov. 1669|
|7 Dec. 1669||SIR JOHN HANMER||351||281|
|Sir James Rushout, Bt.||425||226|
|22 Feb. 1670||SIR JAMES RUSHOUT, Bt. vice Sandys, deceased|
|4 Feb. 1679||SIR JAMES RUSHOUT, Bt.|
|HENRY PARKER I|
|16 Aug. 1679||SIR JAMES RUSHOUT, Bt.|
|HENRY PARKER I|
|17 Feb. 1681||SIR JAMES RUSHOUT, Bt.|
|17 Mar. 1685||HENRY PARKER I|
|SIR JOHN MATTHEWES|
|9 Jan. 1689||HENRY PARKER I|
|SIR JOHN MATTHEWES|
Under the charter of 1605 the corporation of Evesham, which controlled the freeman roll, consisted of the mayor, six aldermen, 12 ‘capital burgesses’, the recorder and the chamberlain. The 24 ‘assistant burgesses’ had no definite function or political weight. In 1660 John Egioke and Sir Thomas Rous, two country gentlemen of parliamentarian background, defeated the recorder Theophilus Andrews, who had represented the borough in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament. A petition from the unsuccessful candidate, who may have asserted a corporation franchise, was declared ‘merely vexatious’ by the elections committee.1
By 1661 Egioke had lost his estate and Rous his interest, so that William Sandys, an alderman from a major county family, was able to regain the seat he had occupied in the Long Parliament until expelled as a monopolist. The other Member, Abraham Cullen, was returned on the Rushout interest, which had acquired considerable property in and around the town. When he died in 1669, his brother-in-law Sir James Rushout had come of age, and contested the borough with a Welsh courtier, Sir John Hanmer, who was apparently nominated by the lord lieutenant, Lord Windsor. The town was bitterly divided, but not, it seems, on party lines:
The Quakers, a people united by fraternity as the Jesuits, violently divided in this election with all the gall and venom common to other men; women refused the converse and company of their husbands unless they would vote as they pleased; sons voting against their fathers, fathers threatening to disinherit their sons.
On the receipt of the writ the mayor, who was clearly at Windsor’s disposal, called a meeting of the corporation, and at the instigation of Andrews demanded a formal decision on the franchise. The recent precedents for polling the ‘common burgesses’ or freemen were overwhelming, and Rushout’s supporters were so incensed at the proposal to restrict the franchise to the corporation that they withdrew. In their absence the motion was carried, ten new constables were sworn in to keep the common burgesses out, and on the day of election the mayor and ten of the corporation retreated to the council chamber, and behind locked doors declared Hanmer unanimously elected. Meanwhile Rushout produced an impressive return in his own favour with 484 signatures, including three aldermen and six ‘assistants’, and petitioned. From the elections committee Sir Job Charlton reported against the narrow franchise and recommended seating the petitioner. The House, however, took the view that a poll had been denied and that the election must be declared void. The mayor was sent for in custody, but after two days his offence was remitted ‘in hopes of his better behaviour in the return of the future election’. Quite undaunted by his experience he began by adjourning the poll to a bowling green, ‘a place where never any election was formerly made, or likely to be made again’, at least in the middle of winter. Returning to the guildhall he proceeding to take the poll by tens, subjecting each of Rushour’s voters ‘to a hundred impertinent questions’. By these methods he was able to disqualify 199 of them (200 would have looked suspicious to the elections committee, it was suggested), as against only 70 on the other side. So minute was the scrutiny that it took seven days to poll 779 votes, and Windsor was able to muster about 200 non-resident freemen on Hanmer’s behalf. With drum and trumpet he attended the hustings himself, very much below the dignity of a lord lieutenant, it was considered. Too late, Rushout’s supporters discovered a flaw in the freeman franchise; ‘those freemen ... which have no freeholds within the borough cannot be charged to pay the wages of a Parliament man’, whereas ‘the best freeholders in the town’ were rejected ‘on the pretence that they had not renounced the Covenant’. Rushout prepared another petition, but it was not required, for Sandys died shortly afterwards, and he was able to take the other seat without a contest.2
Hanmer did not stand again for Evesham, but Rushout retained his seat in the Exclusion Parliaments. In both elections of 1679 he was returned with Henry Parker, who had succeeded Andrews as recorder. Although Parker did not vote against exclusion, he was opposed in August by Edward Rudge, a London merchant from a prominent Evesham family who had purchased much of the former abbey property in 1664. Rudge’s petition was never reported, but in 1681 Parker apparently desisted, leaving the two exclusionists, Rushout and Rudge, to be returned unopposed.3
Although the corporation of Evesham produced a very moderate address thanking the King for his declaration on the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament, and enjoyed some protection from Lord Conway, the secretary of state, they could not escape a quo warranto, and in 1683 the charter was surrendered. Sir John Matthewes, another Evesham boy who had become a prosperous merchant, was told by the rector that it ‘would conduce to his Majesty’s service’ if the franchise were restricted to capital burgesses only, or else Rushout might well retain his seat, and with Windsor’s approval the new charter was drafted accordingly. In 1685 Windsor recommended Parker and a local landowner, Sir Thomas Haslewood of Wick. But the corporation preferred Matthewes, one of their own number, as Parker’s colleague. Both sitting Members and virtually the entire corporation were removed by orders-in-council in February 1688, and James II was told that Sir Edward Dineley of Charlton was
esteemed a fit man to be burgess of Evesham, though in respect of his ill health not wishing to stand. Therefore Sir Thomas Haslewood is thought the most probable to prevent others that will not comply, and in the next place the present recorder.
But it required a further new charter to dislodge the Tory Anglican interest, and even then the corporation nominated as junior candidate Parker’s successor, Richard Freeman, whom the King’s electoral agents reported as ‘wavering in his sentiments’ towards the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, ‘notwithstanding the assurance he has given to the contrary’. In September, they proposed as court candidates Dineley and another Tory squire, William Vernon of Egioke. With the return of the old corporation in October, Matthewes and Parker regained office, and they were re-elected to the Convention, probably without a contest, since Rushout was returned as knight of the shire.4
Author: Edward Rowlands
- 1. VCH Worcs. ii. 372-3, 376; W. Tindal, Hist. Evesham, 231; Pub. Intell. 25 June 1660; CJ, viii. 87.
- 2. Worcs. RO, 705/66/BA228/77; CJ, ix. 110, 112.
- 3. G. May, Hist. Evesham, 151; Worcs. RO, 705/66/BA228/77; HMC Portland, ii. 301; Smith’s Prot. Intell. 28 Feb. 1681.
- 4. London Gazette, 15 Aug. 1681; Luttrell, i. 116; CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, pp. 95, 260; July-Oct. 1683, pp. 152, 156; 1685, p. 23; 1687-9, p. 247; Vis. Worcs. ed. Metcalfe, 42, 97, 102; SP44/66/348-51; PC2/72/608, 618; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 239-40, 442.